First Impressions in Lean BPM: Integrify 6
- Published: August 19, 2013
- Written by BPM.com
Lean BPM is distinguished from today’s consolidating group of “stack” or platform vendors in its focus on the quick deployment of process-driven applications (such as purpose-built forms and web apps) rather than broad-reaching system modernization and integration efforts. The latter typically involves project lifecycles of several months, and often 100s or even 1,000s of vertically-integrated function points. In contrast, Lean BPM can be applied to targeted areas to realize immediate benefit, without imposing the deployment overhead and integration effort involved with those environments.
The goal of Lean BPM is to rapidly deliver process-driven functionality, ideally as successive proof-points to build on and grow capabilities horizontally, leveraging the existing environment and infrastructure. Lean BPM supports an agile orientation of transforming through use, following a Deploy-Measure-Improve-Modify model, rather than the older (yet still too common) waterfall approach of significant upfront analysis, modeling and re-engineering before any BPM functionality can be deployed. Lean BPM focuses enabling change through process interaction – making the process visible and accessible to business stakeholders. Typically Lean BPM leverages Web 2.0 type functionality for intuitive/business-friendly graphical reporting and lightweight integration or “mash-up” capabilities, such as using the RESTful services (rather than SOAP messaging or RMI based integration.)
A leading example of Lean BPM is Integrify (currently in version 6) from Integrify Software, Inc. BPM.com recently had the opportunity to evaluate Integrify and found it to be a compelling example of what distinguishes Lean BPM from “stack” oriented BPM platforms, as well as from lightweight “workflow on the web” tools which may offer basic forms routing but lack the state management, transactionality, integration framework or other extensibility required of authentic BPM (and found in Integrify.)
The Integrify platform features a 100% Web-based Administrator console and development environment with a design metaphor that will be familiar to any Web developer or admin, and that allows for fully “codeless,” declarative programming (or perhaps more appropriately “composition”) of all BPM functionality. This includes an integrated forms designer and UI builder, report writer, plus the requisite process modeling environment, business rule editor, and integration framework expected of any fully featured BPM solution. The platform also includes, however, a specific set of library management functionality for managing portfolios of process models and reusable resource components, such as users, roles, reports, forms, and business-related configurations including calendars, organization structure, permissions, as well as system settings.
Figure 1: Integrify’s Web-based Admin Console and Library Services
On of the traditional challenges with BPM development is managing multiple environments for Development, Testing, Production, etc. Within its Web-based deployment and Administration environment, Integrify provides built-in publishing controls to management migration from “Development” to “Testing” to “Production.” This enables support for functional and non-functional testing, as well as selected deployment to limited sets of users prior to full production rollout. Built-in process versioning also supports iterative improvements and changes, allowing all or part of a process to copied and “templated” for the creation a new process, or to be reused as a subprocess.
It is worth noting that the process modeling and task flow designer is based on a common flowcharting notation rather than BPMN. This is consistent with the Lean BPM principal of making process development as accessible (and productive) as possible. Although BPMN offers a standard modeling notation, which can very useful for large, distributed programming projects involving complex business analysis and requirements gathering, this complexity comes with a steep learning curve. For rapid development of process-driven applications, particularly by non-programmers, what will is inevitably more useful is the simpler flowchart metaphor combined with wizard-driven configuration ability of process attributes, such as routing, rules and task definition. This is the model that Integrify follows.
Figure 2: Integrify’s Web-based Process Modeling Environment
Although Integrify does not provide (and thus does not require knowledge of) the notational semantics involved with BPMN, it does support the common syntax expected of BPM modeling. This includes parallel and sequential flow logic, parent/child process hierarchy (e.g., control flow within subprocesses) as well as more complex conditions outside the realm of BPMN, such as the concept of business hours, rich email-based notification, task delegation between users (maintaining the chain of custody) and task scheduling (e.g., scheduling tasks to kick off at a specified time.)
Integrify supports a complex set of Human-Human and Human-System interactions, which can be defined as either User Activity type tasks or Scripted tasks involved Web Services calls or direct database calls. Scripted tasks can instantiate processes, complete tasks or perform any other action within Integrify. This includes support for relatively complex business logic and form-resident functionality such as populating a PDF form with data in- process data and/or generating a new PDF document; line item calculations within forms; add conditional approval with comments when completing an Approval task; as well as to guide users with context-sensitive links to documentation supporting the current task being completed.
Integrify also provides for an adapter architecture that (similar to the Web Services innovations described above) enables in-process/bi-directional integration with external systems, called “Plugin Extensions.” Plugins provide reusable, encapsulated logic (either as an automated activity or human task) for programmatic functions such as integration with external systems (including data Excel), interacting with internal systems, as well extracting data for executing against a rules engine to determine conditional routing directions.
In addition leveraging Web Services within an Integrify process, an externally accessible Web Services layer allows of for other systems to launch Integrify-specific functions. The published services include instantiating a process, retrieving a task list or completing a task, updating process status, or perform a task with bi-directional data exchange. Again, any data passed through the process can be exposed to the rules engine for determining calculations, such as routing direction.
Figure 3: Integrify’s System Architecture
Widgets can data-driven, such as dashboard components include calculations and KPIs, or other functionality such as launching a process or accessing a task list. This is also allows Integrify to integrate into Microsoft SharePoint, as a by process-enabling an existing SharePoint site, or by adding a document to a SharePoint repository.
Also found in Integrify 6 is a mobile app that allows Integrify users to easily start a new request, complete a form or access your requests and tasks in a simple mobile app that is available for Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Google Android, and RIM BlackBerry devices. Available on every major mobile platform, a user can see pending tasks and take actions from a mobile device to make important decisions while on the go.
Company Background Launched in 2001, Chicago-based Integrify is among the more widely adopted BPM platforms, with an installed base of over 200 customers and 200,000 unique users. Customers include many Fortune 500© firms and well-known brands such as Morgan Stanley, BP, Staples, Baylor University and GlaxoSmithKline. One notable recent customer is Sony Network Entertainment. SONY Network Entertainment (SNE) is the premier source for its users' digital entertainment needs (and wants) including music, movies, games, and more, on a variety of connected devices, all through one account.
Because SNE promises its millions of customers "quick and convenient" entertainment, the storefront (store.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com) must be kept up-to-date with the latest content offerings, as soon as they are available. The service was launched in 2008 and as it added new features and capabilities, the Content Operations group found itself increasingly in need of better metrics, more detailed reporting, and a more visible throughput of its workflow. The Content Operation department's workflows serve as communication between the two groups within the team; the majority of requests involve Partner Operations submitting instructions to the Metadata & Storefront Operations group for data entry into their content management system. Currently, there are 15 different processes set up in Integrify to help categorize the different requests, though instructions vary for each individual submission. Additionally, Metadata & Storefront Operations use Integrify to submit work within their own group, specifically for the recurring merchandising updates across the storefront. The Marketing team also submits requests to Metadata & Store Operations to alert them of content available for promotions so that necessary changes can be made. SNE has streamlined its processes within the Content Operations team as more are handled and available for tracking via Integrify. Managers have greater visibility into what the team is working on and operators have a more consolidated resource for task assignments.
Integrify can be deployed either “OnPremise” running on a Windows platform with either a Oracle or SQL Server database. Alternatively, as SONY Network Entertainment is doing, it can be run “Cloud based” with all of the functionality of the OnPremise solution in a Cloud model.